Tag Archives: accession

How an independent Scotland could enter the EU

Scottish referendum debate urging yes vote

One of the most vexing questions of the current campaign for Scottish independence is how easily it might be for an independent Scotland to join the European Union.scotlandUnited Kingdom Flag IconEuropean_Union

As a constituent part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has been part of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Economic Community, since 1972, the date of the first EEC enlargement, when Ireland and Denmark also joined.

As such, Scotland has been exempt from several conditions that would be required of an independent country seeking EU membership today. Scotland hasn’t had to join the eurozone or become a member of the Schengen zone, which allows all EU citizens to travel freely throughout 26 of the 28 member states (Ireland and the United Kingdom are the exceptions). It has also received some of the benefit of those rebates that Margaret Thatcher clawed back from Europe in the 1980s.

An independent Scotland might be forced to accept, at least in principle, joining either or both of the the eurozone the Schengen zone as a condition of re-accession to the European Union. The former could complicate the assurances that Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has tried to give that Scotland could continue using the British pound and, like Ireland today, share open borders with what remains of the United Kingdom. Continue reading How an independent Scotland could enter the EU

The most important EU success story you’ve never heard? Serbia.


The global media’s attention this weekend will be fixed on Crimea, where a status referendum is almost certainly likely to result in its  annexation into the Russian Federation.European_UnionSerbia_Flag_Icon

But the world’s attention should be on Serbia, which is holding snap elections on March 16 — the same day as the Crimean referendum.  Serbia’s parliamentary elections come just two months after formally opening negotiations to join the European Union, a landmark step in what’s been a decade-long push for greater Serbian-EU integration.

When political commentators tell you that Ukraine is the frontier of the European Union, they’re right that European policymakers have both an economic and security interest in Ukraine’s stability.

But the true frontier of the European Union is the Balkans, and no country is more vital to the future political and economic stability of the region than Serbia, home to over 7 million residents, the most populous of the Balkan states.

Polls show that the outcome of Sunday’s election is almost certain — a wider majority for the center-right Serbian Progressive Party (SNS, Српска напредна странка), which as a member of the current coalition government, is working to tackle corruption, liberalize and privatize sectors of the Serbian economy and bring Serbian budget closer to balance — all while the country faces unsteady economic growth and an unemployment rate of 20%.

Notwithstanding the real economic pain today in Serbia, none of that matters as much as the fact of Serbian continuity with respect to European integration.  Though Serbia’s formal accession may take up to a decade, Serbia seems certain to become either the 29th member (or the 30th member, following Montenegro) of the European Union.  What’s more, the most significant fact of Serbian political life in the past two years has been the durability of the national commitment, across all major political parties and ideologies, to Serbia’s eventual EU membership.

Think back to the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.  Or to the ‘ethnic cleansing’ that marked the civil war among Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Serbs between 1992 and 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Or to the Serbian aggression over Kosovo that led to  NATO military action against Belgrade in 1998-99 and the emergence of the semi-independent Kosovo today.  Or to the dictatorship of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević from 1987 until 2000, with full-throated support from Moscow.

Though it’s something that we take for granted in the year 2014, it wasn’t always a foregone conclusion that Serbia today would be so united in its push to turn economically and socially toward Europe.

It wasn’t even so clear in 2012.

Nikolić and Dačić: an unlikely pair of EU champions

In the last parliamentary elections in May 2012, the SNS won the greatest number of seats (73) in Serbia’s 250-member National Assembly (Народна скупштина), and the SNS’s Tomislav Nikolić, running for the fifth time, narrowly won the Serbian presidency over incumbent Boris Tadić, whose center-left Democratic Party (Демократска странка / DS) had governed Serbia since 2004.  Tadić, throughout the 2000s, laid the groundwork for greater cooperation with the European Union.

When Tadić lost power in July 2012, no one knew whether Nikolić and the Serbian Progressives would pursue EU cooperation with the same zeal as the Democrats had.  Nikolić (pictured above, right, with EU foreign affairs high representative Catherine Ashton, middle, and prime minister Ivica Dačić, left) long favored Russia over the European Union, and his first trip abroad as president was to Moscow, where he declared in September 2012, ‘The only thing I love more than Russia is Serbia.’   Continue reading The most important EU success story you’ve never heard? Serbia.

Serbian government pushes forward with early elections


As Serbia takes another step closer to joining the European Union, its government is headed to snap elections on March 16, with the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS, Српска напредна странка) of president Tomislav Nikolić hoping to replace prime minister Ivica Dačić with its own leader, Aleksandar Vučić, after just 18 months since Dačić took office. Serbia_Flag_Icon

Dačić and his Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS, Социјалистичка партија Србије) emerged in the May 2012 parliamentary elections as the surprisingly strong third-place winners.  That gave Dačić and the SPS the power to determine whether the new government would comprise an alliance with Nikolić’s center-right Progressives or the center-left Democratic Party (DS, Демократска странка) of former president Boris Tadić.  Nikolić, on his fifth attempt to win the presidency, edged out Tadić in the May 2012 presidential runoff, bringing Tadić’s eight-year tenure to an end.

As the kingmaker for Serbia’s next government, Dačić (pictured above, right, with Nikolić, left) decided to crown himself king — and Dačić became prime minister, though his Socialists, with 44 seats in Serbia’s 250-member National Assembly (Народна скупштина), were technically the junior partner in coalition with the Progressives, which hold 73 seats. (The Democrats currently hold 67, and three more minor parties each hold between 16 and 21 seats).

The Dačić-led government oversaw an economic recovery — a 1.7% contraction in 2012 transformed into an estimated 2.4% expansion in 2013.  In any event, there’s no doubt that the Serbian economy has marked a definite improvement.  Though unemployment remains high at around 20%, it’s fallen from a high of around 25.5% in early 2012.

Moreover, Serbia achieved significant progress on EU membership, with negotiations opening earlier this month and ongoing EU-brokered negotiations on the fragile relationship over the future status of Kosovo, despite concerns in 2012 that Nikolić and the Progressives have historically been closer to Russia than to western Europe and wary of EU accession.  The EU talks will rank among the top issues in the election campaign, including the reform program that Brussels requires as a prelude to membership, which could significantly boost the Serbian economy.

But a year and a half into government, Nikolić and the Progressives believe the time has come for Vučić to assume the premiership — and polls show that Serbians agree.  With a fresh mandate, Vučić will push forward with the EU negotiations, and there’s a chance that a new Progressive-led administration work with the IMF for a package of guarantees to reduce lending costs.

A Faktor poll last week showed that 42.1% of Serbia’s electorate support the Progressives, while just 13.9% support the Democrats and 10.5% support Dačić’s Socialists.  Two other parties achieve significant support: the eurosceptic, conservative Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS, Демократска странка Србије), led by Vojislav Koštunica, Serbia’s president from 2000 to 2003 and prime minister from 2004 and 2008, would win 6.8%; and the free-market liberal, centrist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP, Либерално-демократска партија), led by Čedomir Jovanović and several former Democratic Party members, would win 5%.

Vučić, who became the leader of the Progressive Party in May 2012, serves as the first deputy prime minister, and from July 2012 to August 2013, he also served as Serbia’s defense minister.  As the head of the largest party in government, however, he holds more de facto power that Dačić.  As the Progressive Party leader, he’s taken a strong stance against corruption, and he has played a central role in negotiations with respect to Serbia’s accession to the European Union.  As a member of the once-dominant Serbian Radical Party, Vučić served as minister of information in the late 1990s, when at the young age of age 28, he was responsible for assessing fines against journalists who criticised the government and Serbian president Slobodan Milošević — a stance he has recanted today. Continue reading Serbian government pushes forward with early elections

From Dublin to Dubrovnik: Reflections on 40 years of EU enlargement


Guest post by Michael J. Geary

Croatia on Monday becomes the 28th member of the European Union, marking a historical transformation for a country at the crossroads of central Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean.European_Unioncroatia

The second former Yugoslav country to join the European Union (following Slovenia, also a eurozone member), Croatia declared its independence in 1991, an event that led to the breakup of the union of Yugoslavia, an event that the United Nations and the European Union may have hastened in 1992 Croatia’s independence when they provided international recognition to a sovereign Croatia.  At the same time, the Croatian War of Independence broke out between Croat forces loyal to the newly independent Croatia and the Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army and local Serb militia, the latter determined to prevent Croatia from breaking away. Between 1991 and 1995, when the conflict finally ended,more than 20,000 people had died and much of the country was destroyed.

Croatia, however, has marked major progress since the mid-1990s.  Successive Croatian governments have edged closer (albeit, sometimes with a gentle nudge from Brussels) to the European Union and the country formally applied for membership in February 2003.  A year later, the European Commission endorsed its application, and the European Council granted Croatia candidate status.  Enlargement negotiations proved difficult — not least because Slovenia, already an EU member state since 2004, had insisted that certain border disputes be resolved before Croatia could be accepted as a member.  The Slovenian veto stalled the negotiations for 10 months in the late 2000s before finally the two former Yugoslav nations agreed to settle border issues bilaterally.  Yet the extradition of Croatian citizens to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia proved to be a far thornier issue dominating the EU-Croatia enlargement talks.  The United Nations established the Tribunal in 1993 to deal with war crimes that took place during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Croatia’s full cooperation with the Tribunal (reluctant at times) was a prerequisite for EU membership.

2013 is a year of contrasts for the EU enlargement process — arguably one its most successful policies, and one of the reasons that the European Union received the Nobel Prize for Peace last year.  Aside from Croatia’s pending membership, the European Union is set to open negotiations with Serbia and possibly sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo after those two countries signed a landmark agreement in April normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina after almost two decades of hostilities. Continue reading From Dublin to Dubrovnik: Reflections on 40 years of EU enlargement